Describe "fast-paced" work environment

I currently work in government and during my journey to break into tech, I feel like you always see "fast-paced work environment" in the job posting. But what exactly does that mean? For example, I created and implemented my division's first onboarding process in two weeks. Is that timeline considered part of the "fast-paced" work environment or does it go faster? 😅 I feel like most folks would consider government work "slow" so I'm trying to translate my experience appropriately for tech interviews.

Thank you for your advice!

MorganLucas's profile thumbnail
I asked about this recently in an interview: the answer? "I aim for things to be done as quickly as possible, but within reason."Not super helpful, but tech has, at least for the dev side, such a focus on continuous integration and constantly pushing updates.
kelijoboneymba's profile thumbnail
I was just asked about it in an interview today and used your advice as the base to my response and it seemed to go well so thank you for this tip!
iynna's profile thumbnail
We were just having this convo with @liztalago during our Elpha members' chat this past Saturday. Not to be too cynical, to me "fast-paced" is another way of saying, don't ask too many questions, figure out yourself, be prepared to work "hard" but not necessarily being fairly compensated for it. Again not trying to be cynical because there are some genuinely good places that enforce that kind of culture: so at a high level it is an environment where there will be several irons in the fire and you'll be expected to stay on top of those. In your specific case, you're right the government has a reputation of going slowly (and I think it is not totally wrong), but it will be a matter of showing your personality, the things you have to offer, your grit and excitement about the work and the world of tech :)
kelijoboneymba's profile thumbnail
Thank you for this! My immediate interpretation of "fast-paced" is how you described it.
iynna's profile thumbnail
Of course!My advice as you diligence the startups you are interviewing with is to look for other flags (red or green) to better understand the culture and values and if it aligns with yours :)Here is a very helpful thread on the topichttps://elpha.com/posts/up7u0q57/what-are-some-red-flags-during-interview-process
jasminepfingsten's profile thumbnail
When people say "fast-paced," I feel like they're talking about the vibe of their office more than anything. I've seen stuff get done really fast in really chill environments because relaxed people are productive people, but those offices never used fast-paced as their primary descriptor. "Fast-paced" in my work life has hinted at deadlines that can be stress-inducing and an encouragement to work as many hours as it takes to get the job done (read: unpaid overtime). If the work or your team's well being matters enough to you, that time doesn't feel like a stretch. But not all of us are blessed with a deep-down love of our work, so whether or not it's worth it feels really case by case.
kelijoboneymba's profile thumbnail
Thank you for bringing up well being in relation to fast-paced environments, that's something I will need to keep in mind when asking questions in my interview.
sophiablistein's profile thumbnail
Some of these responses are really interesting and I definitely hadn't thought about the darker side of "fast-paced" before. I'd say if you wanted to give the phrase the benefit of the doubt, fast-paced means an environment where challenges and opportunities present themselves so often that "planning ahead" can often be a little bit in vain. You have to constantly re-evaluate what's going on and re-prioritize to make sure you're working on the right things. Sometimes that does mean more hours but ideally you're able to work with your team to move things around and flex to take on the right projects so that that's not permanent.
kelijoboneymba's profile thumbnail
I never thought about the "planning ahead may be in vain" part but that makes perfect sense!
alisifton's profile thumbnail
This 100% is my experience with fast-paced. Planning is tough because priorities shift and it is often on the worker to adjust to the new focus (or ask for help prioritizing!). I've also been in "fast-paced" businesses (largely VC-backed start-ups) where the hours were insane and that's what they meant by fast-paced. So I guess it can be both - one I love (the first) and one I disliked (the second, although it did show me what I'm capable of)
jadeh's profile thumbnail
You don't say what kind of roles you're going for so maybe not all of this applies, but I'd add that in tech, this could be related to releasing quickly, or gathering feedback/data quickly. Maybe the result is a bit scrappy, maybe it's not 100% perfect, but it's not slowed down in complexity. I'd suggest thinking of examples where you had an idea or task, did enough to get feedback quickly, and iterated on it.I'd watch for signs of a fast pace being driven by unrealistic deadlines or expectations; that's not pace, that's chaos IMHO!
kelijoboneymba's profile thumbnail
Hi! great point, I didn't mention the roles I'm applying for so if it's helpful, I'm looking for HR/People Ops leadership roles.
jadeh's profile thumbnail
Ok, the above probably applies less then as that'd be more for development work. Good luck with your search!
kelijoboneymba's profile thumbnail
Thank you for the share! I applied to the HRBP Director Role.
Naomi's profile thumbnail
I totally agree with @iynna -- it can often be a red flag.Sometimes it's just a poorly-written job description -- but that itself can be a reflection of the culture as well.